U.S. preparing to position troops to evacuate the embassy in Sudan

The Pentagon is preparing to send troops to Djibouti in case the US embassy in Sudan needs to be evacuated – but they will not help private American citizens to flee fighting between rival generals

  • Foreign governments are urgently trying to help citizens flee fighting in Sudan
  • Hundreds of people have been killed as rival generals battle for supremacy
  • Deputy Sec. of State Wendy Sherman told lawmakers troops were moving close 

The Pentagon is positioning U.S. forces in Djibouti ahead of any possible operation to evacuate the embassy in the Sudanese capital Khartoum amid heavy fighting.

Several international aid workers or officials have been killed or wounded during a week of fighting between two rival generals, and foreign governments are urgently seeking ways to bring their nationals home.

Things deteriorated further on Thursday as armed factions fought near Khartoum’s main military installation threatening to unravel the latest attempted ceasefire.

American embassy staff are currently sheltering at the U.S. compound about eight miles from the international airport.

Wendy Sherman, the deputy secretary of state, told lawmakers Wednesday that troops were being sent to a base in Djibouti as officials weighed launching an evacuation.

‘She made clear that they are not about to evacuate American citizens,’ said a source familiar with the plan. ‘She said they have been told for months not to travel there and to get out.’

More than 330 people have died in fighting that pits the country’s two most powerful generals against each other.

General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, leader of the Rapid Support Forces, had been part of General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan military government until a power struggle erupted into violence.

A string of attacks on aid staff and diplomatic officials have caused alarm in foreign capitals. 

Three employees of the World Food Programme were killed this week as fighting spread from the capital into the western Darfur region.

Wim Fransen, the head of the European Union’s humanitarian agency in Sudan, was shot on Tuesday in Khartoum.

And Aidan O’Hara, the EU’s ambassador to Sudan, who is Irish, was wounded during an attack on his home. 

A U.S. embassy convoy also came under fire earlier this week.

The Sudanese capital Khartoum has been riven by violence as two rival generals fight for control of the country. Foreign governments are weighing how to rescue their citizens

The plan will position extra troops at Camp Lemmonier in Djibouti ready for an evacuation

Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman briefed lawmakers on the fighting and described efforts to prepare for a possible evacuation of the US embassy in Khartoum

Fires can be seen burning at night after days of heavy fighting in the capital Khartoum

Destroyed military vehicles in southern Khartoum. Some 330 people have died in the fighting

‘We are deploying additional capabilities nearby in the region for contingency purposes related to securing and potentially facilitating the departure of U.S. Embassy personnel from Sudan, if circumstances require it,’ the Pentagon said in a statement without offering further details.

National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said there was no evidence that Sudanese militias had deliberately targeted the American convoy.

He said President Joe Biden had been briefed on evacuation plans. 

‘He has been in touch with his national security team regularly since the violence started,’ he said.

‘And he authorized the military to move forward with pre-positioning forces and to develop options in case — and I want to stress right now … in case — there’s a need for an evacuation.’

Different countries have taken different approaches to rescuing citizens. 

Embassy staff in Khartoum are currently sheltering in place. The embassy is seen here in 2017

The United States said it was ‘not currently safe’ to evacuate private citizens. 

Japan’s defense ministry has positioned military transport aircraft in Djibouti to prepare for pulling 63 of its nationals out. 

France has said its focus is on securing a ceasefire rather than pulling out its citizens. 

And Germany reportedly sent three planes, only to abandon the rescue once they were on their way. 

The target is Eid, the festival that marks the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan and is due to start on Friday or Saturday.

Dagalo, widely known as Hemedti, has said he would be willing to hold a three-day truce.

‘We are talking about a humanitarian truce, we are talking about safe passages… we are not talking about sitting down with a criminal,’ he told Al Jazeera, referring to Burhan.

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